How TED and TEDx are writing the future of conferences

12 01 2013

tedxA friend recently shared this great article on TED from Wired, The Big McThink! How TED Became a Consumer Franchise, I’ve blogged about TED in the past (I’m a fan, although never attended!) and I’m sure most people are familiar with the trans-formative effect they have had on many issues. But I think Bill Wasik in this recent article highlights some very interesting aspects of this success, including:

  • Putting video online is only the start – It transformed TED as a brand from a conference to a media company and created the worlds first truly global virtual conference, but it’s still only part of the story. It lets the online talks and real world experiences feed off each other and grow. It primes the audience but it’s clear looking at the numbers that people also want to attend the event!
  • TEDx’s growth (1,300 events in 134 countries, with more than 800,000 delegates) – The licensing model adopted by TED for TEDx is risky and revolutionary, taking TED from it’s somewhat humble beginnings to buck the industry norm, often the way you win big!
  • The TEDxer’s (if you can call them that) – Are engaged in their communities, highly entrepreneurial, and driven to deliver a quality experience beyond the $100 entry fee. Their passion for the event guarantees they find true leaders in their fields that deliver a unique, passionate presentation.
  • Speaker acquisition and coaching – the local TEDxer’s are helping coach new speakers on sharing ideas. I also believe TED does significant coaching of speakers. Just being an industry expert or holding the key job title is no longer enough, speakers need to be coached in the art of presenting.  Check out the acquisition process for TED.
  • One fundamental rule – no sponsors logos on stage, no one can sell anything during the ‘performance’. Sponsors play a huge part in many events, how they engage with the audience needs to change.
  • Bill also highlights some research by Joseph Lampel on how conferences can help focus the mind from the onslaught of information we all receive today. He also points to some very interesting older research on how ‘events’ can shape industries.

It’s a great article, well worth the read, and insightful look into how our field might develop. No doubt, speaker acquisition, induction, and training for most conferences needs to improve, the relationship with sponsors and the audience also needs to adapt, we need to find more ways to engage the crowd in producing our events and video can help reach beyond the room to drive deeper awareness.  As William Gibson said, “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”.